Since her freshman year, Caitlin Gleason has been an active member of Cornell’s Panhellenic Council, the undergraduate council that helps to govern and guide Cornell’s thirteen female fraternities. This year she has taken on her largest role yet: President of the Panhellenic Council. We sat down with Caitlin to talk about Greek life, her plans for the future of the organization and her own experiences at Cornell.
How did you become involved in the Panhellenic Council?
During the summer after my freshman year I reached out to Lindsay Wershaw, a woman in my chapter who was then VP of Communications for the Panhellenic Council. I knew I wanted to run for a position in either my chapter or on Panhellenic, but I was unsure which one to choose. During the fall of my sophomore year, I met Kendall Grant, a former Panhellenic President, who graduated last year. She and Lindsay were two of my biggest role models. I wanted to have the chance to make that same impact on the Greek community, and continue improving Cornell’s campus.
What inspired you to run for President of Panhel?
While serving on the board my sophomore year, I worked closely with campus leaders and learned so much from the women I worked with on the Council. It was a challenging but rewarding experience seeing how we could implement policy and programming to better shape students’ perceptions and experiences as Greeks. I think ultimately I want to go into public service at some point in my career, and this position would allow me to better serve the Cornell community and empower all Panhellenic women to become leaders in their respective organizations. I also learned that my close friend from freshman year, Drew Lord, was running for IFC President. I knew we’d make a great team if things panned out–and they did! We are so thrilled to continue improving the Tri-Council, and I’m excited to hear next week who the new MGLC President will be.
What changes do you hope to implement as President?
For the Panhellenic community, I hope to make the recruitment process less heteronormative, and more closely focused on values. We need to reduce financial burdens for potential new members, encourage tolerance and acceptance in our communities, and positively impact this campus through service initiatives. One thing members of my board have brought up is increasing access to Greek life for students with disabilities, through creating virtual house tour videos and changing around some aspects of the current process. But most importantly, we need to foster this collective identity of being a Panhellenic woman, and not just a member of a particular chapter. I firmly believe we are much stronger together.
As a Tri-Council, I want to continue dispelling myths surrounding sexual assault on campus, and have transparent conversations with chapter leaders about the message we send with the language we use, and the actions people should be taking in combatting this. We also are going to continue programming efforts for One Greek Experience, figuring out where we can improve for next year. I want our Executive Boards to become more approachable to all members of Greek life, as we need to hear the issues and create tangible action items.
How do you think Greek Life contributes to the Cornell community?
This community empowers individuals to become leaders and change-makers. Going Greek provides you with a network of friends, mentors, and role models, allowing you to grow as a scholar, critical thinker, and brother/sister. Aside from this, we constantly plan ways to give back, and we want the Cornell and Ithaca community to thrive. Just this fall, Cornell Greeks contributed over 600 hours of service during Greeks Give Back. As a Tri-Council, we have the power to work together for the greater good because our organizations span thousands of students.
What is one class every student should take at Cornell?
ILROB 3730: Culture, Change, and Leadership. This course is so unique in that it focuses on revealing the true campus climate on a variety of topics including sexual violence, mental health, diversity and inclusion, athletic teams, Greek life, and drinking, to name a few. Professor Sonnenstuhl is a firm believer in having students actively engage with material and reflect on how to dispel pluralistic ignorance.
Who is your favorite Cornell professor?
That’s tough. A tie between Professor Kate Griffith and Professor Bill Sonnenstuhl! Griffith made me want to go to law school, and Sonnenstuhl is so incredibly knowledgeable on student leadership and organizational change. They are two incredibly interesting people I admire.
What is your favorite Cornell memory?
Getting into my a cappella group freshman year. When a cappella groups accept new members, they come and “sing them in.” I met some of my best friends through a cappella–and we’re all in different Greek chapters.
Supreme Court Justice!